Older adults frequently dish out wisdom and warm hugs to their grandchildren. Some also spread that joy by serving as foster grandparents, guiding children as role models, mentors, and friends.
The AmeriCorps Seniors Foster Grandparents program provides a way for volunteers age 55 and up to stay active by serving children in their communities. In 2020, more than 800 volunteers mentored 3,500 young people in Illinois. Chicago’s program, offered through the Chicago Department of Family & Support Services, is the largest in the state.
“It’s the most rewarding thing I’ve done in my life,” says Brenda Scrutchions of Chicago’s Avalon Park neighborhood. “I’ve learned how to open doors for children who have no conception of what they can do.” Scrutchions helps third graders at South Shore Fine Arts Academy with schoolwork while offering a listening ear and an open heart. She won Foster Grandparent of the Year honors last year for her work.
Tisha Jackson lives in the Roseland neighborhood and has been a foster grandparent for six years, teaching pre-K and kindergarten students how to read. “I enjoy working with the babies,” she says. “Some of them don’t have that protection at home, and they love for you to help them. They always come at you with a smile and a hug.”